Hoof Prints and Camp Smoke


January 15, 2015

The Holidays are over.  Decorations have been taken down, memories stored and it’s time to start thinking that hopefully all the winter snow, sleet, hail, freezing and future flooding from all that sleet, snow, hail and freezing will be gone in a few weeks.  It’s time to start planning for horsecamping and trail riding but in the mean time, plan some projects that will help around camp or on the trail and ones you’ve been thinking about but just haven’t done because believe it or not, spring will spring and summer will not be far behind.......promise!!


One of the most helpful projects one can accomplish without a lot of cost or work are ‘chocks’.  Chocks are wooden blocks that go behind and/or in front of trailer tires.  You can even put ‘em in back of or in front of the towing vehicle’s tires.  Putting a chock in front of a tire will keep the trailer from moving forward.  Putting a chock behind a tire will keep it from moving backwards.  Where a chock is placed is helpful when it comes to parking on a slight incline, uneven ground or even on a hilly slope! 


Some horses get a little spooky when going into or out of a trailer.  It can be because the trailer is ‘moving’ in their mind.  When they step in, the trailer moves a little forward.  Coming out, it can seem to be lurching as the horse backs out, shifts weight to hindend and ‘pushes’ out with front legs.  The reason is because the tires aren’t ‘solid’ in one place so the trailer rocks.


To eliminate trailer movement, make some chocks and then toss ‘em in your tack compartment.  Always put things you’ll need or are required in the tack compartment because you may not always use the same towing vehicle.  But if things are in the tack compartment, they’re always WITH the trailer. 


You can buy chocks.  In plastic.  Or wood.  Or use an old brick or piece of wood one finds laying around the trailhead.  But I like my own!  And mine were cheaper to make than I could buy since I used an old post for one chock and an end from another post for the second chock.  Plus, I don’t have to walk around a trailhead looking for a rock or brick or something to use as a chock – just pull ‘em out of the tack compartment. 


To make chocks, use a 6 by 6 inch post about 24 inches long.  Check around your barn or with friends, someone might even have an old broken off fence post that can be cut down to chock length – about 10 – 12 inches long.  Next, cut the piece so there’s a slope on one end as shown in the picture.  You want the chock to fit behind or in front of a tire snuggly with a good slope on it so the tire won’t just roll up, onto and over the chock.


If you wanta be fancy and not have to bend over so far to pull the chock out, drill a one inch hole through the chock on the length.  Then stick a piece of rope through the hold.  Pull it out, over the chock and tie the rope ends together.  Notice in the picture, the one chock without a rope through it would be harder to pull out from under the tire.  The one with the rope you can just slide your boot toe under the rope and pull it out!!


To keep from FORGETTING your chocks, paint ‘em.  Everything one has for camping should be white, blue, green, red, yellow – nothing brown or black.  Why?  You’ll forget it.  Bright colors are seen!  Even though you’ll walk around a campsite before heading out, you can still not see a brown blanket or halter hanging on a fence post or over a corral fence.  I know.  I’ve got a brown horse blanket up in a Trinity Alps horsecamp that one of these days I’m going back to get!


Horse Expo Pomona, California will open its equestrian events, exhibits, displays, clinician presentations and a whole bunch of vendors at Fairplex in Pomona, California on Friday, January 30th thru February 1st!!  I’ll be presenting “Horsecamping” daily at 2 pm so be sure to stop by and say ‘hello’.  And pick up a FREE copy of daily handouts and information for subscribing to The Trail Rider magazine.  Each day we’ll talk about a different subject for horse camping – Friday, “Horsecamping – here!  there! & everywhere!”; Saturday, “Pack it, stash it & store it” and Sunday, “On The Road Again.......”.  If you want more information, e-mail me at horsecamping@comcast.net, call me at (510) 299-5215 or check out the Pomona Horse Expo website for a COMPLETE list of all the happenings.......see ya in Pomona!


Stay safe!


Bonnie & Nic


Christmas Gifts

December 12, 2014

Bonnie Davis Christmas comes in all shapes and sizes.  Big, fancy presents.  Tangible put your hands on gifts.  But the best types of Christmas gifts don’t come wrapped.  They don’t wear out or get to small.  They’re the memories we gather over the years  Some good.   Some bad.  Some happy.  Some sad.  We all have ‘em........ 


My saddest Christmas memory is the first Christmas after my husband died.  We’d been married 48 years.  From our first Christmas to our last, we’d always went for a ride on Christmas Eve.  Feed the horses their Christmas Eve dinner.  Then home and sitting in the living room looking at the tree.  Some Christmas trees were big.  Some little.  And after all those years it had lots of ornaments hanging on it from paper chains Becky made in the first grade to a silver star on top that my dad made for my mom on their first Christmas after they were married in 1937.  We’d talk about the year.  Then what we planned for the coming year.  About midnight ‘Santa’ put out the last presents.  Even on our last Christmas Eve together, ‘Santa’ bought me a pair of new boots.  The Christmas after his death, I put up a tree, rode and fed Nic that Christmas Eve, came home but there was no ‘Santa’ that night.


One of the happiest Christmas memories was when Becky was about 12, she wanted an english saddle.  We rode western but she bugged us all year for an english saddle.  As Christmas drew nearer, ‘Santa’ decided to bring a saddle.  But a saddle can be hard to get down a chimney on Christmas Eve.  Where could ‘Santa’ put an english saddle where she wouldn’t see it?  In the shower!  Becky was told she couldn’t take a shower for a few days until the shower got fixed.  Just to make sure she didn’t ‘check’ the shower out, put the english saddle upside down with a dark tarp.  It looked like the shower was under construction. 


Christmas Eve ‘Santa’ delivered the saddle – he put it on the back of the sofa, complete with irons, pad, bridle, helmet.  The Christmas Rule was no one could get out of bed and look at presents until AFTER the first light of Christmas morning.  I can still hear Becky’s door open, the creaking of floor boards as she tip-toed down the hall and then the sudden giggles, jumping up and down, whispering to herself when she saw that english saddle!!


The most thankful Christmas memory is of Nic.  I was in Idaho giving “Horsecamping” clinics the end of October.  Becky called to tell me she had taken Nic to the vet hospital.  He had colic.  Vets said they didn’t think he’d live without surgery.  And they weren’t sure he’d make it through surgery.  They recommended ‘putting’ him down.  Both Becky and I cried on the phone together.  We talked.  Decided NO, Nic would not be put down.  We agreed tell vets to make him comfortable.  No pain.  No surgery.  I’d be home as soon as I could get there.  So I drove to the vet hospital in about 14 hours from Idaho since I couldn’t get a plane out.  Actually I’d have to say I ‘flew’ home via car. 


Nic was in a stall with all kinds of drips and drains in him.  Pain medicated.  He couldn’t lie down.  If he did, he couldn’t get up.  Becky had a bale of straw outside his stall and had slept there.  She’d walked him for 10 minutes every hour on the hour since he had been admitted.  After every walk she’d call me.  She massaged his sides because an old cowboy I knew had lots of ‘home cures’ and massage over the flank and warm water was one of them.


Bonnie Davis When I got there, she was exhausted.  But the first thing she said as we hugged and cried was “Nic made it through the night!”  For two days we worked on Nic.  Walking.  Giving him hot water to drink.  Lots of massages.  Lots of love, petting and talking to.  Telling him it wasn’t his time to cross that Rainbow Bridge.


After 4 days, Nic had his first ‘solid’ meal – oatmeal and bran mash in warm water with syrup on top.  He began to wander around the stall, look out the window and nicker when we walked up to him.  Becky would stand in the stall with him and they’d look out the window.  Together.  Becky would tell him about the rides he was going on.  And with his ears up, he’s nudge her and then look out the window with her.  Nic was at the vet hospital another week.  Then home.  To go on those rides.  And that picture of Nic and Becky looking out the window is on my Christmas tree......


Christmas isn’t presents.  Or gifts.  Or spending money.  Christmas is a ‘feeling’.  Memories.  Remembering why.  How.  When.  Whatever you want to call that time around the world.  It’s talking about grandma and grandpa.  About the dogs and animals we’ve had.  Our folks.  Our friends.  Believing.  When the New Year rolls in and the tree is gone, the presents sorted and stored, the scents and wonders of the Holidays gone, there’s those Christmas memories always drifting through our minds!     


May your Christmas be joyous.  Memories plentiful.  Happy or sad.  And if you shed a tear or two when remembering, they’re part of Christmas ‘gifts’ too. 


Safe trails.....


Bonnie and Nic


CEH Horse Report

November 04, 2014

A lot of universities and colleges put out equine newsletters.  But if you’ve never seen the publication from the Center for Equine Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, California....now’s the time to do it!!

This Fall 2014 issue is an excellent source for brushing up on YOUR emergency procedures when disaster strikes. We never want it to happen to us but if prepared, it helps to make the situation a little easier to handle!! This issue covers it all......Develop Your Individual Plan; Identification; Halters & Lead Ropes; Medical Records & Photos; Transportation; Do Your Horses Know How to Lead and Unload?; Evacuation Sites/Refuge; Back-Up Plan; Communicate Your Plan; Evacuate Sooner Rather Than Later.  And that’s just the beginning.....

So go to their website and read it!!  Could help you save your horse’s life or another horse’s life someday!!

Go to website  www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ceh

When on that page, click on ‘Publications’

When on that page, click on “The Horse Report”

Guaranteed you won’t regret taking the time to read it.  Or print it out for reference!

Bonnie & Nic

What Ya Weigh?

October 15, 2014

Often when travelling down a Forest Service or a county road, one will see a sign “Narrow Bridge”.  Or “Two Ton Bridge”.  Or “Low Bridge”.  So tell me, what does your rig weight?  How high is it?  How wide?  Because it doesn’t matter how fast one drives trying to get across THAT bridge, you aren’t going to make it if the outfit weighs MORE than the bridge can carry.  Or the rig is 4 inches wider than the bridge.  Or if an air conditioner is higher than the top of the camper and will hit the spanners on top of the bridge!!  Doesn’t matter.  You’re still NOT going to get over that bridge.  SAFELY......


To be on the safe side when it comes to weight, the next time you go camping and have a full rig – all the horses, all the feed, all the groceries, all everything you normally take – drive by a set of public scales and get weighed.  If you go by a highway patrol office with scales, they’ll let you weigh a rig for free.  At least the ones I’ve used in California have.  Private scales run from $25 up.  But knowing what your rig weighs will make you feel safer when approaching a bridge.    


Next, measure the width of your rig.  Stand in front and look down both sides.  What sticks out the furthers from the sides?  I’ve got a diesel dually.  My wheel wells on my truck might.  But it’s not the wheel wells or even the little clearance lights ON the wheel wells, the widest spots on my truck are the mirrors.  The mirrors stick out about 2 inches wider than the wheel well clearance lights.  Why?  So I get a better view of both sides of my rig when pulling.  Plus if my mirrors clear, what’s following will clear also – to a point.  If hauling panels on the side of a trailer, measure from the edge of them.  Once you’ve determined the width of your rig, add 2 more inches to that measure for the grand total width.  It’s better to have a couple inches of clearance than scrap paint!  Or tear a fender off.


After weight and width, measure height.  To the very tippy-top of the rig.  Even with your roof vent open (in case you leave it open one day when travelling).  With an LQ trailer, to the very top WITH the roof vent open also.  You’ll need a ladder to do this and for any measuring you’re going to have to have someone help you measure.


In Arizona, saw an LQ trailer come zipping into a fuel station.  He hardly slow down.  Just headed to the nearest pump.  The ceiling lights under the station roof were hanging down and as he pulled through, he managed to break 8 of them even though they were hung on chains and swung as he wiped them out!  So when pulling into a fueling station, LOOK overhead.  In fact, ALWAYS look overhead when pulling under anything.  If not sure you’ll clear a light (or a tree branch), have a partner get out and watch or get out yourself.  It’s better to be safe than pay a couple thousand dollars to fix a fuel stations overhead lights!


Once you’ve got all this information, print it neatly on a 3 x 5 card.  Go to an automotive store and buy one of those little visor envelopes.  They clip onto the sun visor.  Slide the card inside and clip it onto the driver’s side visor.  If you’re not sure how much you weigh or how high you are or how wide the next time pulling into a fueling spot or coming to a bridge, simply flip down the visor and read it!!  You can even add the weight of the motor oil used in the engine!  License plate numbers for trailer and towing rig too. 

Thistles, Twigs & Tails

August 28, 2014

Never can quite understand why folks CUT and SHORTEN a mane and a tail!  Mother Nature gave horses’ manes and tails that grow to keep flies and bugs off ‘em.  Other than us humans wanting the horse to “look neater” or “prettier” or “it’s fashion” or “Jane down the street does it”, I can think of no reason to cut a mane or a tail.  Other than if one owns a lot of stock in a company that sells fly spray!!


Bonnie Davis
Credit: Bonnie Davis
I can understand the frustration one has when it comes to getting a horse’s mane neat and tangle free.  The biggest problem I have with Nic’s mane is that he gets ‘witches knots’ in it.  Especially when he’s out in pasture and the wind is blowing.  Or during a full moon.  An ole wife’s tale is that horse’s get ‘witches knots’ in their manes after a witch’s midnight ride.  A witch will pick out a horse from a pasture, knot the horse’s mane for hand holds, put a spell on the horse and then ride the horse through the sky for a midnight journey. 


Bring Nic in the next morning and he’s got all these knots ‘woven’ in his mane that can take me an hour to pick out with my fingers.  Can’t brush ‘em out.  Just have to pick ‘em out.  And the worse thing one can do is cut ‘em out.  Once out and the mane is loose and free, you’ll have a mane with holes cut in it and not very neat looking! 

Have found that a quick fix is to put baby oil in the knot.  Rub it through and let it sit for an hour or so.  While I clean Nic up from his midnight, full moon witch’s ride, the baby oil soaks into the hair.  It will still take some picking to get the knot out but it’s a lot easier after some baby oil is in the mane plus it makes the hair feel soft.


Since I ride in a lot of dry country and Nic’s tail will just about drag on the ground (really keeps those flies off his back and hindquarters!!) the easy way to avoid thistles, twigs and other brush from getting tangled in his long tail is to braid the tail.  Usually I braid it at the trailer.  Just before leaving on a ride.  Do not braid it to tight and be careful to braid below the end of spine.  I don’t use rubber bands in it except at the end. 


In the picture, Nic had his tail braided only to the top of his hocks.  On this particular ride Nic and I were going through some swamp with a lot of little gnats that loved to pester him by landing on his hocks and lower legs.  So left about a foot of tail hair loose so it fanned out and helped to keep the gnats off better.  Returning to the trailer, I unsaddled and unbraided his tail.  Back at the barn I’ll wash his back off and brush his tail out.


I’m not to concerned about how it looks when braided.  He’s not going into a show ring for points.  But rather walk down a trail.  I want his tail to keep the bugs off but I also don’t wanta spend an hour picking ‘trash’ out of his long tail – so I braid!  If you haven’t tried it, give it a try.  If you want you can even add a bow and remember, if your horse kicks don’t forget to add that RED ribbon so everyone behind you knows to stay back out of kicking range. 


Have a safe ride.......


Bonnie & Nic


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